Two Pitzer Students Arrested in Occupy L.A. Raid
Just after midnight on November 30th, 1400 police officers converged on City Hall Park in downtown Los Angeles and announced that the park was now closed. After giving three separate 10-minute warnings to disperse peacefully, the police moved in on the Occupy Los Angeles protestors whose movement was centered at the city park.
Many evacuated of their own accord, however, Alyssa Solis and Morgan Bennett, two Pitzer juniors, were arrested along with 289 other protesters on charges of failing to disperse.
"We were on the South lawn when 100 police officers in riot gear poured out of the South entrance to City Hall and formed a perimeter," Alyssa Solis recalls. Solis and Bennett were caught inside the police barrier when the raid began, and Solis tried to follow police instructions to exit, but the barricades were confusing and difficult to navigate.
"An officer announced, 'if you want to leave, exit this way.' I had no intention of getting arrested because I had a dance concert the next day, so I exited to the corner of First and Broadway where they told me to move a block West, but there was a line of policemen blocking our way and so we were essentially cornered," Solis said. "We saw [the officers] count the zipties and then we heard them say ‘just get them all.’
The students were cuffed, and after her arrest at approximately 2:10AM, Solis was put on a bus with 48 other people where she was driven to Van Nuys for processing. "They left us in the bus for 7 hours without food, water, and would not let us use the bathroom. We were able to break the zipties with a multi-tool that had not been confiscated, but people were urinating and vomiting because of the cramped quarters."
Solis was booked at 5pm, 13 hours after her arrest.
Many protesters said they felt traumatized after witnessing police use force against the protesters. The Los Angeles Times reports that some protesters might even need therapy. There were no major instances of violence during the eviction, however, which led Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, in a press conference later that morning, to describe the raid as "maybe the finest moment in the history of the Los Angeles Police Department."
Some protesters, including Solis disagree. "They arrested everyone," she said. "They arrested legal observers, media people with permits to be there, and a girl who was walking home from the bar and didn’t have any idea what Occupy LA even was."
Villaraigosa first announced that protesters would be evicted due to public health and safety concerns on November 21st at 12:01 AM after 7 weeks of occupying the park. But that deadline came and went without police action. The announcement, however, did cause half of the protesters to pack up and go home, according to NBC Los Angeles. Over a week later, on the night of November 29th, police assembled and began raiding the park just after midnight on November 30th. LAPD enlisted a dozen undercover agents to gather information on the intentions of protesters, a police source told the Los Angeles Times, and Villaraigosa later said he had decided to go ahead with the eviction upon learning that there were children living in tents within the encampment.
In all, 46 people were charged with misdemeanor crimes of failure to disperse from an unlawful assembly and/or resisting arrest. Some protesters were released on bail, while 187 of those arrested were released without bail and without being charged because they had no prior convictions. Solis was given a notice to appear, while Bennett was not charged.
Morgan Bennett could not be reached for comment.